Des Burge has held a number of positions within the church and other Canadian institutions. A graduate of St. Dunstan’s University in P.E.I., he worked for awhile as a reporter and night editor at the Charlottetown Guardian newspaper. He then joined the RCAF and spent seven years with the air force, mainly in public relations, before becoming director of communications for the Ontario Department of Labour for three years. He later took the same position with the Metro Toronto Separate School Board, then spent four years at the Archdiocese of Toronto in the same field. All the while, he was socially aware and assisted the Canadian pro-life movement, particularly through work in the Birthright organization. A debilitating injury in a car accident four years ago caused him to take up residence at a Toronto long-term care facility, where The Interim caught up with him to get his views on what’s happening in society, the church and the pro-life movement.
The Interim: What are your thoughts on how the Catholic church has responded to life issues and the wider socio-cultural questions of our time?
Des Burge: I’ve worked with bishops, and know many bishops. I have a lot of respect and regard for them. They’re competent, dedicated and spiritual men. They’ve done a lot of good work and have presented a lot of well-reasoned briefs to the government.
Unfortunately, it’s all fallen on deaf ears … It’s put the bishops in a very difficult situation. We’ve lost some battles along the way; there are more battles to be fought, of course. I would think the bishops will have to mobilize our forces in a spiritual manner.
We have to mobilize the spiritual resources we have available and involve the people and involve the people in waging this type of campaign … (Spiritual measures are) the only way we have of reversing things in Canada. If we keep going down the trail we’re going, the next step is euthanasia, then infanticide. Chesterton predicted all this in the 1920s … Things can be reversed in Canada.
The Interim: A big problem seems to be that Catholic politicians and congregations aren’t with the bishops.
Des Burge: A lot of the congregation is with the bishops. Quite a few. You don’t need all the congregation. There’s a very dedicated core in all parts of Canada … If the dedicated core is rallied, the thing can be done … It can achieve quite a lot.
The Interim: We don’t seem to want to use our influence.
Des Burge: That’s true.
The Interim: During a normal homily at a Catholic church, you rarely hear social issues discussed. So people aren’t informed.
Des Burge: Things are different in different churches … All the churches recently promoted campaigns against abortion and same-sex “marriage” … (Politicians are) taking God out of society. It’s hard to understand how people with intelligence can reach the conclusions they do. This is why we’ve ended up with such a mess in government … Our country’s in bad shape. These leaders denied wisdom.
The Interim: What comment do you have to make on the Winnipeg Statement (a document by Canadian bishops that suggested Catholic couples can follow their consciences as to whether they wish to obey their church’s teaching on birth control)? What influence has it had on what’s happened in Canada?
Des Burge: I’ve never been able to understand how they could square that with (the papal encyclical) Humanae Vitae … I’m puzzled by the statement … I know some smart bishops and don’t know the reason they haven’t (reversed themselves). I suspect they don’t wish to upset something within the Canadian church. They must have felt they had reason and could support it. Many people don’t.
The Interim: What are your thoughts on the Catholic education system and how it’s been functioning?
Des Burge: I’m grateful for the Catholic education system. I think it’s a treasure that Ontario people are lucky to have … Things probably can be better, but they do a lot of good. There are questions about how well the Catholic faith is taught. This may vary from school to school and place to place … I saw a lot of good being accomplished and a lot of good teachers … I had some who were practically in tears over some of the things they were taught … You’re going to end up with both cases. It’s hard to look at the thing overall … It may not be perfect, but they’re not bad compared to the alternative, in my opinion.
The Interim: What do you think should be the next steps of the pro-life movement?
Des Burge: I have to express admiration, respect and confidence in the work that’s being done. I find mind-boggling the work that Jim Hughes and others have done … They have to keep doing that and keep up the struggle. The tide will turn. I’m hopeful. The troops are on the ground and need another component – the artillery. That’s the spiritual component. That should come from the church and its leadership.
The Interim: There have been many successes in the U.S.
Des Burge: Our political system is different and that makes it more difficult. Here, to become leader of a political party means that every moral principle is wrung out of you by the time you get to the leadership. They wring you so hard, there’s no spine left … Paul Martin can’t tell me same-sex “marriage” is the right law for Canada …It’s a big disappointment that he sold out … You won’t find many Thomas Mores in our cabinet, although Joe Comuzzi and Pat O’Brien stood up … Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The Interim: In closing, any other thoughts you want to add?
Des Burge: I don’t know how they’re going to get the same-sex “marriage” thing off track … (but) it’s going to be an issue in the next election for a lot of people … We’re not going to resolve this by political means, without the spiritual. There has to be divine intervention. The bishops have to realize that it’s spiritual warfare we’re in …
We have to have humility to seek divine power and the faith to use it. If we do those things, coupled with the work done by Campaign Life and other people of goodwill, we will succeed.